A nurse who is passionate about boosting breastfeeding rates has spent hours of her own time filming advice videos, which she hopes will go some way to fill in the gap created by staffing shortages in midwifery and health visiting.
Jackie Hall, who is an infant feeding lead at an NHS trust in the north of England, has worked with her IT expert husband to create the free Breastfeeding Companion online resource, which features her sharing tips and information covering the key questions she has been asked time and again by mothers.
“I believe mothers themselves need the same education and training we give to staff”
She has even set up a mini studio at her home to film the videos, which she hopes will help supplement one-to-one support from midwives, health visitors and others.
“People spend a lot of time Googling and searching for reliable breastfeeding information. I am trying to provide a friendlier source of advice to women who may be on the brink,” she said.
“It is basically as if I am talking directly to that mother about the question she is asking,” she told Nursing Times.
It has taken Ms Hall and her husband Gordon, who runs his own digital media company, a year to put the website together. It now features more than eight hours of video footage and officially launched this week to coincide with World Breastfeeding Week.
The videos are six minutes long, on average, and there are now 85 on the site that are all grouped together according to a baby’s age.
“My real hope would be that this would fill in some of those gaps where people are falling through the net”
Ms Hall said the resource was not designed to be a substitute for one-to-one support, but added that staffing shortages did mean families could struggle to get timely help with breastfeeding.
“What I am not saying is: this will mean that you never have a one-to-one with anybody. In most of the videos I encourage one-to-one support in various circumstances as well as the other hints and tips,” she said.
“I offer one-to-one support myself but I also know that I cannot be with that woman 24 hours a day whenever something comes up and she has a query,” she noted.
Ms Hall, who has been a nurse for nearly 30 years and is a certified lactation consultant, said breastfeeding support was much better than it used to be.
However, she suggested that, ultimately, a “lack of manpower” had contributed to the UK having one of the lowest breastfeeding rates in Western Europe.
Nurse creates new online resource to support breastfeeding
“The first six weeks are the hardest for the majority of mothers,” she said. “Often they’ve had their baby and are struggling with something but the midwives are really, really busy.
“I know midwives who have decided not to do midwifery anymore because they just did not have the time to sit with the mothers,” she said. “It is the same with health visiting – they are all over-stretched as well.
“Meanwhile, we have lost that mother to mother support in our society, where aunties and mothers and grandmas were all helping the mum and living close by – and that’s why we do peer support training,” said Ms Hall.
“My real hope would be that this would fill in some of those gaps where people are falling through the net,” she told Nursing Times.
She currently works part-time as part of the health visiting service at her trust and is responsible for training health visitors, nursery nurses and staff nurses working in the community, as well as training mums to offer peer support.
“Often mums who come on my training say: ‘I wish I had this information when I was pregnant’ or ‘I wish I’d known this before I gave up breastfeeding’,” she said.
“I believe mothers themselves need the same education and training we give to staff,” she told Nursing Times.
“I run drop-ins every week and I must speak to about 1,000 people a year through telephone support, drop-ins and home visits and it has been a relentless barrage of similar questions,” she noted.
“The first six weeks are the hardest for the majority of mothers”
She said she was inspired to set up the Breastfeeding Companion website when her husband suggested she list the 100 most common questions women ask. “In 10 minutes I got up to 88 that are routinely being asked,” she said.
As well as helping parents, Ms Hall suggested the site was a useful resource for professionals, and that health visitor colleagues were already using it.
“It is a resource for anybody really – particularly professionals. I do four-hour training once a month for all of our staff – if they looked at all the videos, then they would have a really good all-round knowledge,” she said.
Ms Hall said she hoped the site would soon get an official seal of approval from the NHS by earning an NHS Information Standard kitemark.
“It’s my baby really,” she said. “It feels like I have managed to capture the essence of the work I have been passionate about for many years.”